After several stellar episodes, the next-to-last installment of the season fell way short of great. While I wouldn’t go out of my way to call it the worst of the year, it certainly wasn’t the best, either. It was mostly bland with some good performances to save the mediocre script.
It opens with Prince Charming about to be guillotined for the crime of following his heart. The Evil Queen steps in, and tells the King she promises to make Charming suffer a fate far worse than death–she will make him lose his one true love, Snow White. The king happily turns the Prince over to her.
Meanwhile, Snow, Red Riding Hood (who’s been absent for half a season) and the dwarves (not a big fan of the little guys) plot to rescue Charming. Snow proves she is a true bad ass by scaling the castle walls and sword fighting about a zillion royal soldiers. Just when she thinks she’s bested them all, a zillion more appear. But wait! Here come some Technicolor mini-fairies who drop magical dust and subdue all the soldiers. (If this scene sounds ridiculous, even for a G-rated Disney show, that’s because it is. The rainbow-colored fairies are starting to truly annoy.)
In any event, those wee fairies allow Snow into the castle, where she finds Prince Charming locked in a cell. Unfortunately, it’s only a mirror image of him, a trick of the Queen’s, who strikes a bargain with Snow: meet the queen where their story all began–the stables–and they will negotiate.
Foolishly, Snow agrees. You’d think she’d have learned by now to never trust this woman, but no. As the two meet at the stables, The Evil Queen informs Snow that HER true love, Daniel, died because of Snow. Snow is horrified and apologizes; but also points out that the Queen took her father; so doesn’t that make them even? Disagreeing, the Queen tells Snow that if she wants her Prince Charming to live, she must eat the apple the queen pulls out of a bag. She gleefully tells Snow White the apple won’t actually kill her; but it will cause her “body to be your tomb”. Being the virtuous sort she is, Snow takes a big bite, and promptly falls to the ground.
After 21 episodes of the Queen and Snow White at each other’s throats and circling each other, ready for blood, this was a real letdown moment. I expected a lot more emotion, drama and maybe even some good old-fashioned cat-fighting. But instead we got, “Here, have a bite.” “Ok. Don’t mind if I do.” Yawn.
Meanwhile in Storybrooke, Emma continues to not believe in the curse, or fairy tales. Double Yawn. 21 episodes of Emma being The Voice of Reason is getting really old, too.
However, amidst all the bland, we did learn something quite interesting: Regina reveals that Mr. Gold was the one who originally cast the curse on the Fairy Tale residents! Considering he now wants nothing more than to see that curse broken, that’s a bombshell. Why did he do such a thing? In any event, Regina is very worried that the curse seems to be weakening and is determined to see Emma gone and dead.
To that end, she enlists Jefferson’s help (and it’s nice to see the Mad Hatter back). She tells him she will reunite him with his daughter Grace if he helps. She pulls his magic hat out of a box, only for them to discover it doesn’t work in Storybrooke. But Regina has a very small bit of magic left and she throws it all into the hat, given them just enough magic to stick one hand through the portal to FairyTale.
And that one hand pulls out…..The Magic/Poison Apple. And that was perhaps the cleverest scene of the episode.
Cut to Regina, in a fair Betty Crocker imitation, frantically rolling out dough for one unforgettable apple strudel. And right on cue, Emma rings the doorbell, asking Regina if they could put aside their differences for Henry’s sake. She informs the mayor she’ll even leave town if Regina just agrees to let Emma visit Henry.
Regina, knowing she has a potent baked good waiting, readily agrees and offers Emma some strudel for the road. Emma says, “thanks” and accepts the toxic dessert. And that was perhaps the stupidest scene of the episode. Are you kidding me? Emma, who despises the mayor, accepts baked goods from her and meekly walks out? With some ridiculous promise from Regina that she can visit Henry? Give. Me. A. Huge. Break.
Later that day, Henry comes to Emma’s and she tells him that she’s leaving Storybrooke, for his own good. Henry, very upset, begs Emma to stay and break the curse. Emma tells Henry, again, that the curse isn’t real, and yada yada yada. Just then, Henry spies the strudel and asks Emma where it came from. Upon learning his dear mother baked it, he realizes what Regina has done and takes a nice big bite out of it, to prove to Emma the curse IS real. And sure enough, he drops like a stone.
Since next week is the season finale, we have one more episode in season one for Emma to finally believe in fairytales and to stop sounding like a broken record. Let’s also hope, really hard, that the finale is a lot more exciting than the penultimate episode proved to be.